By Carrie Roden
What is it about January that makes it seem like a fresh start is actually possible? I mean, there isn’t anything magical about flipping the page on the calendar, and we are fundamentally the same people on January 1 that we were on December 1. But year after year, people who would never begin an exercise program, start a new diet, or finally try to get organized on December 1, resolve to start fresh in January.
There is just something within us that feels hopeful that when the old year passes, so will the old us. I love hearing friends’ and family members’ resolutions and those who choose one word to focus on for the upcoming year, and I love thinking about the possibilities of a new year. But we all know that almost as consistently as we make resolutions in January, most of us break them shortly thereafter. We lose focus or become discouraged, and too often February 1 finds us the exact same people we were on January 1, just feeling a little bit more like failures.
So what are we doing wrong? Why do we keep repeating the pattern of starting fresh, failing, giving up, and feeling discouraged? Maybe the way we make our resolutions isn’t working. For example, each year I typically think through which areas I am most dissatisfied with in my own life, and then “resolve” to become a completely different person in that area. What could possibly go wrong?
Maybe it starts with me being the source of the “resolution.” Maybe I’m not qualified to decide on my own what I need to resolve to be or do. So this year, instead of making resolutions based on what I dislike most about myself and trying to become someone else in that area, I’m asking the Lord to show me where He wants me to grow. I’m inviting Him into the process and then I’m going to respond to what He shows me.
This process isn’t quite as simple as writing a list of resolutions, and it’s definitely a little scarier, but I also know I can trust God to help me do what He has asked me to do. Maybe I would like to become a well-organized, meticulous housekeeper, but the Lord is actually asking me to grow in the area of submitting my emotions to His control. Maybe I’ve decided to save for a dream vacation, but God is actually calling me to plan for regular date nights with my husband.
One thing is for certain, because God has purposes and plans designed just for me, He already knows how and where He wants me to grow. But true to his nature, He will not force His will on me, and I am free to spin my wheels on my own. But if I invite Him into my fresh start, He is sure to meet me there and invite me to grow where He purposes.
Maybe God has already shown you where He’s calling you to grow. Maybe you even have someone you look up to that excels in that area. If you’re like me, it’s easy to identify the change you need to make and then decide to simply become someone else in that area. For example, if I want to read more in 2017, I might decide I will adopt my friend Becca’s reading goals. I want to develop a more powerful prayer life, so I decide to become my friend Misty every time I set about praying. I want to improve my fitness level so I decide I will run just like my friend Kristin. I mean, these are inspiring women worthy of emulating. What’s the problem? By the end of the year, I should be the most well-read, powerfully-praying marathon runner around.
Except we all know it doesn’t work that way. When our resolution is to become someone else, even in just one area of life, we are automatically setting ourself at odds with the One who uniquely created us, so we are pretty much doomed from the beginning. God didn’t create me to become Becca, Misty, Kristin, or anyone else, but rather he has a specific purpose and plan for my life, so their standards and goals probably aren’t the ones He has for me.
So does “being who God created me to be” mean I get to prayerlessly watch TV on my couch guilt-free all year? Not quite. There is no doubt that the Lord wants all of us to grow up into the plans and purposes He has for us, and rarely does that involve living every day like it’s the week after Christmas. In fact, those people we admire can definitely provide inspiration and may be able to offer encouragement, support, or even accountability, but they cannot become our measuring stick. The only standard we are held to is His, and thankfully He measures us through the lens of grace and more grace.
So as you begin this new year, don’t forget to invite the God who made you into your new beginning. Lay down your own list of resolutions long enough to listen to and respond to His invitation to grow. Look for sources of inspiration and encouragement, but don’t let them become your measuring stick. He has a specific purpose and plan for your life, and He is willing and able to help you live it out.
“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” – Jeremiah 29:11-14 (MSG)